Let me tell you the kind of person I would like to be. The person I know I could be.
Once on a work trip, our boarded airplane was held at the gate for some ungodly amount of time. By this, I probably mean 40 urban minutes. Which is two to three hours in Grand Rapids time. One passenger was furiously texting or gaming or something-ing on her phone, which caused periodic and loud ding dings. I noticed it instantly because I pride myself on being an amazing crowd member. It’s a role I was born to play; I could see live theater as a preschooler.
I also noticed it instantly because I hate dinging. I silence all microwaves, keyboards, and machines before doing anything else with them. If we ever have to replace our washer and dryer, the first thing I’ll research–after efficiency ratings–is if it makes any beeps, and whether or not I can shut them the hell up.
After about fifteen minutes of this woman’s phone invasion, and many tsks of surrounding passengers, another woman on the plane asked, “Does anyone hear that? Is there a problem? What is that sound?”
I replied loudly to her, “That is the sound of someone who was not raised to be aware of others.”
But if she wasn’t hearing the dinging, she wasn’t hearing my passive aggressive nonsense.
So the woman sitting in front of the offender turned and asked in this level, collaborative way, “Excuse me, would you mind silencing your phone?”
She said it so sincerely, as if she did not hate this other passenger, and all that she represented about the decline of humanity. And the offender sweetly apologized, and silenced her phone. This woman was a normal human being who just got clueless. Maybe she has been awake for days traveling. Or maybe she was texting her sister because she was on her way to their father’s funeral.
I said to the lovely savior of us all, “Thank you. That was…what I should have done.”
That’s the woman I want to be.
But today, years after that airplane delay, I failed again. After an award-winning morning of gracefully dealing with a severely emotional preschooler, I was standing in a check out line. My post to Facebook in this moment?
Putting your grocery cart up my ass does not make any more of this conveyor belt appear for me to put my groceries on.
Remember how I hate beeps? Do you know what I hate more? Ineffiency. It’s my downfall. But also makes me an amazing superhero. So, here in the store, despite my torn jeans, and my chatty young child, I was showing no signs of incompetency or inefficiency. There was, in short, no reason to be up my ass.
Let me be more clear: this wasn’t just absent-minded boundary-infringement, or someone with a different understanding of personal space. This person was running a one-woman recreation of “The Amazing Race.”
I knew anything I would say to this woman would be New York City nice. Which is kicked-out-by-security offensive in Grand Rapids. So I took deep breaths, and tried to be that one woman on the plane.
But. I just couldn’t.
I could, however, pause to ask a few questions about how the store credit card works. And feign confusion. And ask one of my favorite checkout guys if he was working the weekend. He’s always so kind, that guy. I’m always both confused and pleased when he asked after The Child, when I’m alone. It was nice to spend an extra 60 revenge seconds chatting with him.
Maybe some day I’ll soar high. Until then, I’m counting the seconds.